It almost seems like actor Janhvi Kapoor is on a mission to continue to prove her critics wrong with every film and every performance she is exhibiting. Taking the most commercial route possible to enter films, Kapoor has only managed to choose character-driven roles post that and her latest, Mili is another example of the same.
An official remake of the Malayalam film, Helen, the film also stars Sunny Kaushal and Manoj Pahwa in important roles. Does the film live up to the original or not? Having had the chance to see the film before hand, here is what I thought about it-
Not Fidgeting Too Much
One dilemma that any filmmaker faces when he/she remakes another/their own film in another language - is the wondering if they should retain aspects of the original or just go crazy and try to make a totally different film. More often than not, the former is chosen and director Mathukutty Xavier, who also directed the original continues the same. Almost an identical treatment is given to Mili, albeit the cultural changes and the setting being a fresh one. While, this has also drawn some criticism, the interesting thing about a film like Mili is that there isn't much to fidget with and that is a smart call. The change of tones, rising tension, basic screenplay and thriller treatment is prevalent in Mili and it definitely helps.
Making Sure the Subtleties Aren't Missed Out on
Not that the step of doing a remake did not lead to the director or the writers to not focus on the subtleties. The entire opening credits scene shows the entire life of Mili from being a child to now aspiring to go to Canada and become a nurse as an ant crawls in every frame the montage shifts. In the end, the ant accidentally falls into an ice tray and that is your segue into the film showing what the protagonist is going to face later. The last shot of the film is also a beautiful touch! Apart from this, casual eve-teasing, cop behaviour and notions about couples and one delightful surprise cameo was smartly inserted into the screenplay.
Taut Survival Thriller & On-screen Chemistry
Mili relied heavily on the situations that would have/would have not made it a taut survival thriller and that it definitely turns out to be. When you see a film where the protagonist is all alone in a helpless surrounding all trapped, that makes for some of the most engaging viewing one can imagine. (Trapped and Shallows come to my mind instantly). Right from the situation that leads to Mili getting trapped inside the freezer to her period inside it surviving -17 degrees and even more for five hours and the triumphant end, the writing is extremely tight and all the things she does trying to survive inside the freezer someway or somehow - it is expertly executed. Apart from that, the on-screen chemistry between Sunny Kaushal and Janhvi Kapoor is rather underwhelming but the father-daughter chemistry between Kapoor and Manoj Pahwa saves the day. It is adorably written and both actors do a fine job in exhibiting the same.
Impeccable Makeup & Effects
During the entire period that Mili is inside the freezer, I have to give special kudos to the makeup and effects department for making sure you believe each and everything and in fact feel the pain, anxiety and tension that Mili faces. The purple shades that show blood clots to the atmosphere in the freezer feeling like you are in the Tundra region and the effects showcasing her attempts to somehow manage and survive are brilliantly planned and executed.
Convenient Plot Developments & A Few Tropes
In a film like this, everything is a question mark and you, as a viewer, is looking for plotholes. Mili barely has any. It answers almost all questions a survival thriller poses except a couple of developments that seem a tad too convenient and in one case, overdose of badluck. Apart from this, Mili also practices some tropes that aren't as impressive which ranges from how literally everyone attached to Mili is literally and almost entirely dependent on her in one way or another. This is done to make you feel her suffering even more but that you anyway end up feeling. Even in the climax, a couple of dialogues resort to standard tropes that make the experience a tad displeasing.
Janhvi Kapoor only seems to be getting better and better with every film and Mili is undoubtedly her best so far. Especially with the scenes of her being trapped in the freezer, every small nuance to the big moments are done expertly by her. There are still a few rough edges in her casual moments during a conversational scene but she is a lot more polished than she was. Sunny Kaushal also falters in a few sequences but is impressive overall especially in the dying moments of the film. The veteran Manoj Pahwa is at his usual best and does his job really well.
Mili might be a remake but definitely stands its own especially catapulted by fine performances, taut screenplay and brilliant music and BGM by the maestro himself, A.R. Rahman.
Rating - ***1/2 (3.5/5)